Counting Religion in Britain, November 2015

Counting Religion in Britain, No. 2, November 2015 features no fewer than 41 new sources. It can be read in full below. Alternatively, you can download the PDF version: No 2 November 2015


Religious affiliation

ORB International’s latest surveys for The Independent included the pollster’s standard question on membership of religious groups (response options being limited to each of the major world faiths plus categories for other religions and none). Fieldwork was conducted online on 23-25 October and 18-19 November 2015 among samples of, respectively, 2,015 and 2,067 adults aged 18 and over in Britain. The data tables, with breaks by standard demographics, are at:

Freedom of speech

The latest release of data from the Spring 2015 wave of the Pew Global Attitudes Project covered the attitudes towards free expression among publics in 40 countries. Fieldwork was co-ordinated by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, with 999 adults aged 18 and over interviewed by telephone in Britain between 8 and 28 April 2015. Respondents were asked about the importance which they attached to being able to practice their religion freely and whether people should be able to make public statements which are offensive to religion or beliefs. They were also invited to assess how important religion was in their own lives, a question asked several times before in Britain by Pew, albeit not since 2011. A majority (54%) replied that it was not too important or not at all important to them, albeit this was lower than the 61% of four years before. The Pew report is available at:

Lord’s Prayer and cinemas

News that Digital Cinema Media had refused to run in cinemas a Church of England pre-Christmas advertisement based on the Lord’s Prayer, on the grounds that it might cause offence to people of non-Christian faiths or none, prompted YouGov to mount a snap poll on the subject among its panellists. When the context was explained to them, 55% of respondents thought the advertisement should have been screened, notwithstanding that 67% rarely or never pray themselves (with just 9% claiming to pray every day). Results were reported on 24 November 2015 at:


Funerals remain a relatively under-researched area, notwithstanding that this is the one rite of passage for which faith bodies continue to be majority providers, at least nominally. Although it lacks any specifically religious component, a new online poll from YouGov, undertaken on 9-10 November 2015, gave interesting insights into how far the sample of 1,639 adults had thought about their funeral and the disposal of their body. Data are available via the link in the blog post at:

Life after death

YouGov has replicated six questions originally posed by the British Institute of Public Opinion (later known as Social Surveys, Gallup Poll) in 1939. YouGov’s fieldwork was conducted among an online panel on 1-2 November 2015, with 1,716 respondents aged 18 and over. Gallup, by contrast, employed face-to-face interviewing with quota samples of Britons aged 21 and over. One of the repeated questions concerned belief in life after death. Whereas in 1939 just under one-half of adults believed and just over one-third disbelieved, in 2015 the proportions were reversed. A link to the 2015 data table can be found in the blog post at:

Remembrance Day

To coincide with this year’s event, Survation released the results of two polls on attitudes to Remembrance Day which were commissioned by British Future. Online panel fieldwork was conducted as far back as 8-15 May 2015 among samples of 3,977 adults in Great Britain and 1,056 in Scotland. Two questions were asked, one about wearing a poppy, and the other about whether the commemoration caused frictions between people of different faiths and ethnicities. Data, which include breaks by religious affiliation, are available at:

Religion at Christmas

The importance attached to the religious aspect of Christmas was investigated by ComRes in an online poll for Premier Christian Media on 23-24 September 2015 (but only recently released), for which 2,016 adults aged 18 and over were interviewed. They were asked to signal their agreement/disagreement with six statements regarding the religious meaning of Christmas. Data tables, including breaks by religious affiliation as well as standard demographics, are available at:

Religious texts

Respondents to an online poll from YouGov about the changing status of books were asked which single book they would want to save from being destroyed forever. They were given four options to choose from, one of which was a religious or sacred text, selected by 14% of the sample, well behind a reference work and a novel in first and second places, respectively. The survey was commissioned by Ideate Research for the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and it was completed by 2,186 adults aged 18 and over on 4-6 November 2015. Data tables are at:

Scots and organized religion

Ipsos MORI’s latest Scottish Public Opinion Monitor, which surveyed 1,029 adults aged 16 and over in Scotland by telephone between 9 and 16 November 2015, included a short battery of Likert-style statements about social changes. One was ‘organised religion is not for me’, with which 68% agreed and only 28% disagreed, thus confirming other recent research which suggests that Scotland is rapidly secularizing. The data table is available at:

British attitudes toward Israel

The attitudes to Israel of 2,007 adults aged 18 and over in Great Britain have been investigated by Populus on behalf of BICOM (Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre). Fieldwork was conducted online on 16-18 October 2015. Questions included public reactions to the existence of a majority Jewish state in Palestine, both today and going back to the 1917 Balfour Declaration. Opinions were also sought regarding other current players in the Middle East, among them Islamic State and the danger which it poses to the UK’s security. Data tables are at:

World War III

Pope Francis has warned that World War III has begun in a ‘piecemeal’ fashion. On 18 November 2015, after the Islamist attacks in Paris, YouGov gave its online panellists an opportunity to say whether they agreed with the Pontiff that we are now in World War III and also whether, regardless of their agreement/disagreement, they thought he had been right to say what he did. Although 53% of the 4,757 UK adults who replied believed he had been right to voice his opinion, only 38% agreed with him. Results, weighted to be representative of the population as a whole, are available at:

Muslim attitudes

In the wake of the Islamist attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015, Survation polled 1,003 Muslims aged 18 and over in Britain by telephone on 18-20 November. Questions covered: relative importance of British and Muslim identity; perceived degree of integration of Muslims into British society; responsibility of Muslims and UK Islamic leaders to condemn terrorist acts carried out in the name of Islam; and attitudes to Islamic State (IS) and the bombing of IS in Syria. Results were reported in The Sun, the newspaper which commissioned the survey, on 23 November, while the full data tables are at:

The poll proved controversial and triggered an unusually large number of complaints to the. Independent Press Standards Organisation. The concern arose particularly from the presentation and interpretation of the findings by The Sun, not least its front-page headline ‘1 in 5 Brit Muslims’ Sympathy for Jihadis’. Even the pollsters distanced themselves from the newspaper’s reporting. However, some criticism was also directed against Survation’s methodology (which it had used before). In brief, respondents were sampled based on a modelled probability of self-identifying as Muslim and using a range of demographic indicators. Prior to interview they were asked to confirm that they were Muslim, including non-practising. Apparently, YouGov, The Sun’s normal pollster, declined to pitch for the contract. For a flavour of the negative coverage, see:

For Survation’s published defence of itself, see:


There has been a strong polling focus this month on attitudes to, and potential British actions against, Islamic State (IS). This follows the renewal of the political debate about extending British participation in coalition air strikes against IS from Iraq to Syria and also arises from the aftermath of the Islamist attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015, which resulted in the death of 130 people. The polls are arranged below in chronological order by date of fieldwork.

BMG Research

On behalf of the Evening Standard, BMG Research surveyed an online sample of 1,528 UK adults on 11-17 November 2015 about their views on extending British air strikes against Islamic State from Iraq to Syria. Interviews were carried out both immediately before and after the Islamist attacks in Paris on 13 November, and the full data tables give the results separately for these two phases. The survey featured in the Evening Standard for 18 November 2015. Data tables are at:


Opinium Research quizzed an online sample of 2,003 UK adults on 13-17 November 2015 about how cases such as that of Mohammed Emwazi, the British ‘Jihadi John’ who executed Western hostages, and who was recently killed in a British and American drone strike, should be handled. Specifically, they were asked whether an attempt should have been made to capture him and put him on trial or whether, given the difficulty of doing so, killing him by drone was appropriate. Data tables are promised but have yet to materialize online. In the meantime, a blog about the poll is at:

YouGov (1)

On behalf of The Times, YouGov took the pulse of public opinion toward Islamic State (IS) in the wake of the Islamist attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015, interviewing a sample of 1,688 adults online on 16-17 November. Respondents were asked whether they approved or disapproved of: RAF participation in air strikes against IS in Syria; Britain and the United States sending ground troops back into Iraq to help fight IS; Britain and the United States sending ground troops into Syria against IS; and the British and American drone strike which killed Mohammed Emwazi, otherwise known as Jihadi John. Views were also sought about the adequacy of the powers of the British authorities to combat the IS threat in Britain, and the level of concern felt about an IS attack in Britain. The poll results were covered in The Times on 18 November and in a blog post on YouGov’s website the same day, the latter also including a link to full data tables – see:

Much the same suite of questions was also asked by YouGov, on behalf of The Times, of 1,443 members of the Labour Party on 19-23 November 2015, with a view to seeing whether they agreed with the seemingly less hawkish position taken against IS by their leader (Jeremy Corbyn) than adopted by Prime Minister David Cameron. Data tables can be accessed via the link in the blog post at:

Survation (1)

As part of a broader survey commissioned by Leave.EU, Survation polled an online sample of 1,546 UK adults aged 18 and over on 16-17 November 2015 about their attitudes toward military action (including air strikes in Syria) against Islamic State in the aftermath of the attacks in Paris. Data tables are at:

ComRes (1)

Also in the immediate aftermath of the Islamist attacks in Paris, ComRes conducted a poll for the Daily Mail among an online sample of 1,061 adults aged 18 and over on 17 November 2015. The subject matter was attitudes to terrorism, including toward Islamic State (IS). The IS-related questions concerned: support for air strikes, and the commitment of ground troops, against IS; the likelihood of such military action increasing the risk of a terrorist attack in Britain; the prospects for defeating IS with or without military action; and approval/disapproval of the killing of Mohammed Emwazi (Jihadi John). Findings were published in the Daily Mail for 19 November 2015, with full data tables at:

ORB International

ORB International undertook a survey among an online sample of 2,067 adult Britons on 18-19 November 2015 on their attitudes to the extension of British air strikes, and the commitment of British ground troops, against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Data tables are at:

ICM Unlimited

In an online survey by ICM Unlimited among 2,013 adult Britons on 18-20 November 2015, views were sought about: (1) British involvement in air strikes against Islamic State (IS) in Syria, with or without the consent of Parliament; and (2) whether British military intervention against IS would make the Middle East safer or more dangerous. Data tables are at:

ComRes (2)

On behalf of The Independent and Sunday Mirror, ComRes polled an online sample of 2,067 adults aged 18 and over on 18-20 November 2015 about: (1) British involvement in air strikes and a ground war against Islamic State (IS); and (2) the killing of British citizens in Syria who had joined IS. Findings were reported in the Independent on Sunday for 22 November 2015, and data tables are at:

YouGov (2)

Almost four-fifths of Londoners are very or fairly worried about an Islamic State terrorist attack on the capital, according to a YouGov poll for the Evening Standard among an online sample of 1,008 London adults on 18-21 November 2015. Results were published in the Evening Standard for 27 November, with the data table available at:

YouGov (3)

The November 2015 wave of Eurotrack, undertaken online by YouGov in seven Western European nations (Britain, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, and Sweden) on 19-24 November, included several questions about terrorism and Islamic State (IS). Respondents, including the 1,699 in Britain, were asked whether Western countries were doing enough to combat IS in Iraq and Syria; whether their national police and security services had sufficient powers to combat any IS threat at home; and about their fears of an IS terrorist attack in their own country. Topline results only are available at:

YouGov (4)

YouGov conducted an online poll of 1,659 Britons on 23-24 November 2015 in connection with a YouGov@Cambridge symposium on Syria and the European Union. Questions covered three broad areas: attitudes toward British military action (in the air and on the ground) against Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria; the handling of Syria and IS issues by British and world political leaders, including David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn; and possible resolutions of those issues, among them co-operation with the government of President Bashar al-Assad and negotiation with IS. Data tables are available via the link at:

YouGov (5)

An online poll by YouGov on 25-26 November 2015 asked 1,623 Britons whether they thought a decision on military intervention against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria should be taken collectively by the European Union or be a matter for individual member states. Only one-third favoured a decision being made at the European level. The data table is at:

Survation (2)

On behalf of the Daily Mirror, Survation polled an online sample of 1,026 UK adults on 26-27 November 2015 about their attitudes to British involvement in air strikes, and to the commitment of British ground troops (now or in the future), against Islamic State in Syria, including about the potential for air strikes to heighten the risk of a terror attack in the UK. Results featured in the Daily Mirror on 28 November 2015, while data tables are at:


Christians and the refugee crisis

The attitudes of UK practising Christians to the international refugee crisis were explored in an online poll conducted by Christian Research in November 2015 and commissioned by Embrace the Middle East, a Christian charity originating in 1854. Respondents comprised 1,055 members of Christian Research’s Resonate panel. Full results have not been released, but there is a brief press release at:

Church of England finances

The Church of England has published a financial overview for 2004-13, conveniently bringing together information on income and expenditure from over 12,000 parishes, 44 dioceses, 41 cathedrals, and three National Church Institutions (Church Commissioners, Archbishops’ Council, and Church of England Pensions Board). The report is available at:

Catholic schools

The Catholic Education Service for England and Wales has published the digest of its 2015 census of Catholic schools and colleges, which, for the second year running, achieved a return of 100%. In separate reports for England and Wales, there are details of: the number, type, and size distribution of schools and colleges; the number of pupils disaggregated by school type, Catholicity, ethnicity, and deprivation; and the number, qualifications, Catholicity, and ethnicity of teaching and support staff. Appendices provide additional breaks by diocese. The reports can be accessed via the links at:

Israelis in Britain

The latest report from the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) is David Graham’s Britain’s Israeli Diaspora: A Demographic Portrait. It is largely based upon the results of the 2011 UK census, including many tables specially commissioned by JPR from the Office for National Statistics. These revealed 23,221 Israelis (defined by birth or citizenship) living in the UK in 2011, the highest ever recorded number, 73% of whom were Jewish either by religion or ethnicity, equivalent to 6% of the Jewish population of the UK. In fact, during the first decade of this Millennium there were more Israeli migrants to Britain than British emigrants to Israel. The 20-page report is available at:


The Islamic Human Rights Commission has published a substantial (272-page) report by Saied Reza Ameli and Arzu Merali entitled Environment of Hate: The New Normal for Muslims in the UK. In chapter 5 (pp. 123-84) it seeks to document Muslim experiences of Islamophobia based upon a sample (implicitly self-selecting) of 1,782 Muslims in 2014, 1,148 of whom completed a hard-copy questionnaire and 634 an online survey. To judge from the demographics which are quoted, respondents were disproportionately young, of Pakistani heritage, educated to degree level, from middle income groups, and practising Muslims. One in eight informants were not actually resident in the UK, and 1% were not even Muslim. Comparisons are drawn with a similar survey in 2009-10, to which there were only 336 respondents, with many indicators apparently revealing perceived worsening Islamophobia over the period. The tone of much of the text gives it the air of a political tract and, combined with a doubtful survey methodology, weakens the case for considering the work as an objective and balanced piece of empirical research (notwithstanding several academic endorsements quoted on the back cover). The report costs £5 to download in PDF format and £10 in paperback, but an eight-page executive summary is freely available at


Religion of prisoners

The Ministry of Justice’s National Offender Management Service has published its Offender Equalities Annual Report, 2014/15, with associated data tables. This includes details of the religious affiliation of the prison population of England and Wales as at 31 March 2015. Of 85,664 prisoners, 49% professed to be Christian, 31% to have no religion, and 14% to be Muslim. The proportion of Christians was actually 0.5% higher than in 2009 and of religious nones four points fewer; this somewhat counterintuitive trend may reflect a shift in the age profile of the prison population, away from the under-25 cohort. The report is available at:

Religion of armed forces

The Ministry of Defence’s biannual diversity statistics for UK armed forces personnel as at 1 October 2015 presented a rather different religious profile to that of prisoners: 77% of the 152,150 regular forces were Christian, 21% of no religion, and a mere 0.3% Muslim. The distribution was very similar among the volunteer reserve. The report and data tables are at:

Youth social action

Meaningful social action by young people in the UK is rather more prevalent among those professing some religion (45%) than those without (39%). Among those classified as committed to social action, the proportion with some faith is 52%. Overall, 49% of young people expressed a religious affiliation and 46% did not. The findings emerged from face-to-face interviews conducted, by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Cabinet Office, with 2,021 10- to 20-year-olds between 2 and 19 September 2015. The definition of social action used in the survey was ‘practical action in the service of others to create positive change’. A presentation about the study, which is designed to support a Government campaign to advance youth social action, is at:


Personal saliency of religion

Clive Field provides an additional lens on the scale and chronology of secularization in modern Britain by reviewing opinion polls on the personal saliency of religion conducted between the 1960s and the present day. Six self-rating measures were derived from both non-recurrent and serial surveys: religiosity (binary questions), religiosity (non-binary questions), spirituality versus religiosity, importance of religion, importance of God, and difference made by religion. The conclusion is that saliency of religion indicators present one of the bleaker pictures of the extent of secularization, worse than affiliation or belief in God data, with self-assessed non-religiosity in Britain higher than in most other Western European countries. The article, ‘Secularising Selfhood: What Can Polling Data on the Personal Saliency of Religion Tell Us about the Scale and Chronology of Secularisation in Modern Britain?’, is published in Journal of Beliefs & Values, Vol. 36, No. 3, 2015, pp. 308-30. Access options are outlined at:

Clergy well-being

Revisiting an 11-year-old dataset of 722 rural clergy, Christine Brewster found only partial linkages between churchmanship and psychological well-being (as measured via the Oxford Happiness Questionnaire). Although theological liberals did experience higher well-being than theological conservatives, controlling for sex, age, and personality, there was no significant difference between evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics nor between charismatics and non-charismatics. Possible explanations for these results are briefly offered. Her article, ‘Churchmanship and Personal Happiness: A Study among Rural Anglican Clergy’, is published in Rural Theology, Vol. 13, No. 2, November 2015, pp. 124-34, and access options are outlined at:

Clergy theological constructs

In ‘Go and Observe the Sower: Seeing Empirical Theology at Work’, Journal of Empirical Theology, Vol. 28, No. 2, 2015, pp. 155-83, Leslie Francis and Andrew Village sought to operationalize two theological constructs, one concerning the nature of being human (rooted in a theology of individual differences) and the other concerning the nature of the Church (rooted in ecclesiology). These constructs were tested among a sample of 1,418 clergy living in England who self-selected to reply (online or by post) to a questionnaire included in the Church Times in 2013. The data revealed that, after controlling for sex and age, both constructs explained significant variance in three measures dividing clerical opinion: traditional moral belief, traditional religious belief, and traditional worship. Access options to the article are outlined at:

Clergy leadership skills

Personality has substantial effects on the self-rated leadership strengths of Anglican clergy, although the psychological types which have positive associations are often not those most commonly found among these clergy. In particular, there is arguably a shortage of ordained ministers characterized by extraversion and thinking (rather than introversion and feeling). So conclude Laura Watt and David Voas on the basis of an online survey of 1,480 clergy, 95% in stipendiary ministry, in April-July 2013 in connection with the Church of England’s church growth research programme. ‘Psychological Types and Self-Assessed Leadership Skills of Clergy in the Church of England’ is published in Mental Health, Religion & Culture, Vol. 18, No. 7, 2015, pp. 544-55. Access options are outlined at:

Attitudes of British Jews toward Israel

The Attitudes of British Jews towards Israel, and to that country’s current policies and conduct in the Middle East, are considered in a new research report published by City University and written by Stephen Miller, Margaret Harris, and Colin Shindler. The study was funded by Yachad, a British, pro-Israel, pro-peace campaigning group, although the authors are at pains to stress their independence of the funding body. Fieldwork was undertaken by Ipsos MORI between March and July 2015 among 1,131 adult British Jews aged 18 and over. The sample was recruited using a combination of: random sampling of individuals on the electoral register with distinctive Jewish surnames; exhaustive sampling of Jewish members of an online panel maintained by Ipsos MORI; and a structured (discriminative) approach to online snowball sampling. An interesting feature of the research is a scale of hawkishness-dovishness in opinions of Israel, based on responses to 41 attitude statements. The report is available at:


SN 6614: Understanding Society, wave 5

The dataset for wave 5 of Understanding Society (United Kingdom Household Longitudinal Study) has been released. Face-to-face interviews were completed by NatCen Social Research with 41,041 adults aged 16 and over in the UK between 8 January 2013 and 5 June 2015. Topics covered included the importance of religion to a sense of personal identity; pride in religion; religious affiliation (by upbringing and current); and religion as a source of harassment and discrimination. The dataset description is available at:

SN 7836: Community Life Survey, 2014-15

The Cabinet Office’s Community Life Survey touches on the role of religion in relation to community life, including volunteering and charitable giving. Background questions are also asked about religious affiliation and self-assigned practice of religion. The 2014-15 survey was conducted by TNS BMRB between 1 July 2014 and 30 April 2015, among a face-to-face sample of 2,022 adults aged 16 and over in England, with 2,323 respondents completing an online or postal questionnaire. The dataset description is available at:

SN 7839: Integrated Household Survey, January-December 2014

The Integrated Household Survey is the largest pool of UK social data after the decennial census of population. In 2014 323,935 individuals aged 16 and over were interviewed, face-to-face or by telephone. A question on religious affiliation is included, using the census categories. The dataset description is available at:


Please note: Counting Religion in Britain is © Clive D. Field, 2015


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